Bandcamp.com or Vinyl? How to Make Your Musical Mark
As I have mentioned in a previous post about the music industry, there are now more accessible websites for musicians to hang up their shingle. A little over a week ago, music critic Cosmo Lee wrote a great post about Bandcamp at his uber-popular site, Invisible Oranges. Knowing Cosmo personally, if he lauds a new tool for musicians to use, it is worth checking out.
While the site isn't fancy and doesn't offer its own messaging boards or Twitter-type communication tools, what it offers are more contemporary applications. While MySpace still has a message board (and just like Facebook and other sites, users have control over who can comment and visit their pages), the pages are oversaturated with images that makes it difficult to upload. Plus, when was the last time they upgraded their social networking applications? Bootcamp.com gives musicians the ability to have the common streaming audio component and the ability to post music in a variety of file formats other than mp3s, such as FLAC, AAC and Ogg. People can also purchase music directly from a band or musician's page and can download codes to put in single track or full-length CD releases and use custom DNS.
Bandcamp also offers free mp3 downloads (up to 128), but you will have to pay (with a PayPal micro-payment option) for the higher quality downloads. There is also an option to let the buyer negotiate on the price of a download. Also, each individual artist page will not be saturated with ads.
While Bandcamp is a useful tool for new artists who are looking for record labels, or for independent artists who are looking for the latest online resource with the greatest buzz to sell their wares, there is also a relatively new trend that is becoming just as popular as utilizing social media to promote music: the vinyl record.
According to the Los Angeles Times between 2003 and 2008, 3,000 American record stores,(both retail franchises and independent sellers), shut their doors for good. Because of the accessibility of buying music online and the cheaper price, (the average price to buy an album's worth of music is $9.99, versus the average retail price of $11.99-19.99), retail stores were not able to compete. However, consumers slowly realized that despite the seemingly archaic method of distributing music on vinyl, the almost too-crisp sound of CDs and mp3s were lacking texture and depth - a sound and feeling that could only be found when the needle hits the vinyl. From the Los Angeles Times:
"I've always marveled at every new generation of 15-year-old boys who go to the Doors vinyl section and say, 'Wow, an original Doors LP!' " said Marc Weinstein, founder of Amoeba Music, the three-store chain whose Hollywood branch is among the largest independent retail record stores in the U.S.
Metal, punk and hardcore record labels are currently producing limited editions of the most popular albums from their top sellers. Why? Listeners are not only interested in the unique sound quality, they also want to get the albums signed when their favourite band comes to town. The popularity of downloading singles and albums also meant that the artwork and liner notes, both extremely important to fans and vinyl collectors, are generally obsolete, unless the band creates a PDF and attaches with along with their music file.
What I personally like is that Bandcamp also offers the ability to provide the material that keeps me from buying albums via iTunes -- access to artwork, lyrics and liner notes. Because of this resurgence of vinyl's popularity, Bandcamp also offers a download code specifically for vinyl and artists can upload their lyrics, liner notes and more artwork. If a band or musician does not want to upload their cover art, they can choose a different visualization. When people listen to the music via the site, it creates a music video component that plays along with the streaming music.
So vinyl or digital? Join Bandcamp, or completely scrap social media tools and start pressing your own music on vinyl? While you can still buy records at your local independent record seller, and -- if you are a lucky musician -- you might find a handful of distributors willing to sell your records, your success will depend on what music genre you perform and as a listener, enjoy. For the extreme music scenes, you might be able to find more rarities than you would the latest Lady Gaga record, so we have a while to go before vinyl becomes more commonplace within the popular musical genres.
But before you sign up for Bandcamp and / or are going to switch from another music-centric social media tool to Bandcamp, why not take to time to freshen up on the ins and outs of using social media to promote your music? I suggest you check out Pro-Music, a fantastic resource for information about how to post your music online. For more legal-related issues, you can also download the PDF manual "Twenty Questions for New Artists" and "The (Near) Future of Online Licensing." Good luck!
Contributing Editor - Race, Ethnicity & Culture
Blog: Writing is Fighting: www.lainad.typepad.com
Writer: Hellbound: www.hellbound.ca